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Out in the corporate world, there’s a movement building; a landscape shift of tectonic proportions. Five years ago, it was barely perceptible but today, visible signs are everywhere. Jaded office workers are heading for the exits; desperate to leave the rat race and start working on their terms.
The dismantling of the industrial revolution is now in full swing, with remote workers taking a bigger share of the employment dollar. Meanwhile, freelancers, solopreneurs and gig workers are filling the gaps and creating a lifestyle many would envy.
For others like myself, the industrial revolution ended years ago. As a Web designer, marketer and writer, I can work from just about anywhere so long as there’s an electrical socket and stable Internet. Many of my contemporaries are in the same position, and some have even followed suit. They wouldn’t return to their cubicles if their mother-in-law’s life depended on it.
Maybe that’s a bad analogy…
Contribution vs Attendance
Regardless, the game has changed. Where once employees were judged on attendance, they’re now valued for their contribution. Not everywhere, but the word is spreading. Whether it happens from a home office, city tower or park bench is irrelevant. Contribution, engagement, creativity and results – these are the new metrics that matter.
Today, there’s also lots of chatter about side hustles and online business. I do both, so I’m certainly a fan. Bloggers, YouTubers and social media mavens point to their awesome lifestyles and say, “You can have this too.” Shopify, Amazon and eBay tell you to start selling stuff, while drop-shippers, SEO purveyors and social media ‘experts’ suggest you’re only $997 away from running your own show (after you purchase their course).
The ‘laptop lifestyle’ is a powerful metaphor, and its lure seductive. So seductive it’s easy to ignore our personal reality and believe the promise of easy money and a stress-free life.
But what if none of this appeals to you? Or what if it does but you just don’t have the time? What if you love your job but hate commuting? What if you desperately want to see your kids for more than 10 minutes in the morning and an hour before bedtime?
What if you just want to keep doing your job, but do it on your terms?
Is it possible? Can it work? The answer… depending of course on your job… is a resounding YES. In fact, the question isn’t ‘Can I do this?’ The real question is, ‘How do I make this happen?’
As someone who’s worked from home – and dozens of other locations – for nearly two decades, the process for me was actually very simple. Ninety-five per cent of my work was (and still is) in front of a computer, much of it online. Back in the late 90’s, I asked my boss to let me try working from home sometimes, and he said yes. Over time, I just did it more frequently.
As some of you will know, I then left that company in pursuit of a bigger pay cheque, and when I returned with my tail between my legs, my gracious boss asked me that fateful question: “Do you want to come back on the payroll and work in the office or would you rather work from home and bill us each month?”
So, for me, it was easy. And really, it shouldn’t be much harder for many of you. If you’re anchored to a PC or a phone all day, there’s little to stop you doing that in a home office, a cafe or a nice park somewhere. The mechanics of it aren’t that complicated. What makes it tough is developing the systems and practices to guarantee productivity, engagement with the team, accountability and trust.
What throws employers off are old metrics around value and visibility. If their staff aren’t visible, how do they know they’re getting value? If they can’t stroll around to their desk and witness someone looking busy, then what are they paying them for? Who’s to say their remote-worker System Analyst isn’t watching Netflix and eating vintage cheddar all day?
The short answer is, they don’t. But their work will know. If they’re not delivering the outcomes each agreed to, it’ll soon become obvious. However, if they’re delivering what the company needs, it doesn’t matter how much dairy they consume. Go eat cheese!
Fears and Concerns About Working From Home
There are two main elements at play, here. First, your employer is concerned about the risks. These might include:
- Will you spend all day in front of the TV or the fridge and get nothing done?
- Will you secretly work for their competitor?
- Will you be harder to reach?
- Will you stop engaging with other team members?
- Will you be accountable and transparent with your work?
All of these need to be addressed, and they can be. The payoff for your employer is no less significant than yours, so you’ll be doing them a favour by helping to address them.
The second element is you. Despite the tantalising prospect of working in your jammies with awful bed hair, you probably have your own fears about this arrangement. They might include:
- Staying disciplined and resisting the temptation to flake off
- Separating work time and family time
- Physically separating your work area from the rest of the house
- Becoming forgotten in the company (out of sight, out of mind)
- Losing status within the old corporate construct
All of these concerns are solvable and worth solving.
In future posts, we’ll go into more detail about the tools, practices and strategies you can employ to make this life a reality. If you can work from home but keep your day job, you get the best of both worlds. You get certainty with flexibility. You get a regular income, and a place to contribute and make a difference; and you get to live a bit more, too. There are no losers in this equation.
To get a headstart on plotting your escape, get the free Work Anywhere Trail Guide below.
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